I Am Gina
I AM GINA
I wrote for Gina and, in some instances, as Gina for over two decades. She was fascinated by the way I could “sound” like her. It is a skill I have developed having to write as the executives I serve.
One early morning, she called me to her office to compliment an article which came out exactly as she wanted.
Grinning from ear to ear, she proudly said, “This is a very beautiful article!” Then asked me, “You wrote this, right?”
Surprised but flattered, I replied, “No, ma’am, you did.”
There was a brief pause, then with shocked expressions on our faces, we broke into a long, hearty laugh.
Gina was a brilliant writer. Profound and inspiring. She would let me write as her once in a while and I enjoyed the experience each time. For her to confuse her work with mine was a wonderful compliment.
From articles to messages, flyers and scripts, even the product description on the detergent box she sold at her ecostore, G Stuff — I’ve done it all. She was appreciative and encouraging and it made me want to do more.
I once gifted her a song I had written and composed for her. She memorized and proudly taught it to the locals of the communities she visited. We even sang parts of it on TV during a promo of her show, G Diaries, when she shockingly plucked me out of the audience to sing it with her.
Gina fondly called me her “Jenie Baby”. A bit unfit for a grown woman, but I found it sweet and endearing nonetheless.
She was truly an affectionate person and she made people felt extra special by calling them “Sweetheart”, “Darling”, or “My Love”, until they found out she addressed everyone the same way. Somehow, it was her adorable strategy to creatively get away with forgetting people’s names.
I admired her, loved her and was terrified by her at the same time. The love and admiration spring from her sincere care for the underdog, the ability to see the good in everyone, and her genuine love for people, especially the poor.
The fear comes from witnessing her tear up people who did not deliver her expected results or have betrayed her trust.
Oh, Gina did not mince words. She would say what she exactly felt in private or over a microphone with one thousand people present. Nonetheless, I always looked forward to seeing her. Her warm hugs gave me an instant recharge.
She had many dreams for the country. Dreams that were inspired by visions she saw in her meditations. Visions of possibilities.
In her mind, she saw them very clearly. And while some doubted her ability to see these dreams come into fruition, many believed in the sincerity of her intentions and were impressed by her determination. Her ability to rally millions of people behind her vision was magical.
Gina was not without flaw. She could be stubborn and demanding.
She expected things done on impossible deadlines and with utmost perfection.
She would easily get distracted. She would have several simultaneous conversations with different people during the same meeting.
At times she could be too trusting and naive, and you just feel sorry when some people would take advantage of her.
Gina hated rules and often challenged policies. She was too free-spirited, she refused to be pinned down even for her own good.
When she was diagnosed with cancer, she made the decision to fight it her way. She made choices based on what she believed were best for her, regardless of what others thought. She determined her own destiny, to the end, and lived her life the way she wanted to.
The hardest writing assignments I have done for Gina was to write the announcement of her passing, a script for her memorial video, and a G Diaries tribute episode, all while she was still alive.
As I was writing the words I could feel my warm tears flowing down. It was excruciating… torturous… agonizing… There were times when it was even difficult to breathe.
I knew that she would go anytime, and everything must be prepared. I wanted to give what was due her. Perfection. Overflowing love.
Then in the early morning of August 19, 2019, I was awakened by the notification light on my phone. The text read, “GL has gone home.”
At that moment, a part of me died.
It was difficult to accept her death. She would always tell us that she would live until she was 80. And then when all her work was done, she would close her eyes…go to sleep…and go to heaven. It seems that her celestial call came too early.
Two months after her passing, ABS-CBN Publishing called and asked me if I could help write a book about Gina. It was to be based on Genuine Love, a TV documentary about her life.
I had mixed feelings about it. First, I was still grieving and while everyone else was trying to move on, I had to go through decades of my experience being with Gina. I had to reminisce happy times in the midst of grief. I knew it was going to be an emotional roller coaster.
Second, the book had a format that I had to follow and I struggled with having to put every interviewee’s quotes into the manuscript. I did not want to offend anyone whom I had to leave out. A close friend told me point blank, “Do not write the book if you intend to please people.” I took a break for two months to contemplate.
After the hiatus, I resumed writing and was told that I could write it the way I wanted, from my own perspective. I felt relieved.
They said I knew Gina best because I have worked with her the longest. But the truth is, I have come to know her better after her death. Had I known then what I know now, our relationship would have been much different.
I have decided to break free from any expectation on how the book should be written or what it should contain. For as long as I wrote from my heart, I know Gina would be happy.
Gina and I will tell her story together. In this book, she is alive — her vision, experiences and reflections in her own words. Perhaps, a book she herself would read, and by the end ask me if I wrote it.
“No Ma’am, we did.”
I would give anything to share the same hearty laughter with her once again. I give you Gina.
This is who she was. What she stood for, and how she changed the world.
(Lifted from the preface of the book, I am Gina: A Life of Love and Service to the World by Jenie Chan)
ABOUT THE BOOK
A Gina Lopez comes only once in many lifetimes.
She was a teenage heiress who left a privileged life to become a missionary. She begged on the streets of India and lived among the destitute in the most desolate places in Africa to fulfill her inner longing to serve God.
In the Philippines, she rallied millions behind monumental projects — Educational Television (ETV), Bantay Bata 163, the reforestation of the La Mesa Watershed, and the rehabilitation of the Pasig River.
As Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, she led the crackdown on mining, closed 23 mines, and banned open-pit mining.
Who is Gina Lopez?
This is Gina in her own words, her reflections, and who she is in the eyes of her family and those whose lives she has touched.
Jenie Chan — Author
Ema Trinidad — Editor
Laura Rivera Aguila — Creative Director